The role of people in future production is a frequently discussed issue. Which new tasks will evolve? Which of these will robots be able to take over and how will people and robots work together? Festo is working with partners from industry and the scientific community in order to find answers to these questions and further practical solutions as part of the research project dealing with “work in the industry of the future” (ARIZ). One of the focal points is safe human-robot collaboration.
Machines and robots with comprehensive safety systems and corresponding sensor technology make it possible for people and machines to move within the same workspace and work together without a protective cage. Ever since the Scharnhausen Technology Plant opened in 2015, Festo has been gathering experience with interaction between production workers and robots.
An assembly robot is allowed to work alongside people without a safety fence. It takes the strain off its human colleagues in the valve assembly department by completing the tiring and stressful gripping and joining tasks. A highly-sensitive sensor skin on the robot arm monitors the robot’s movements: as soon as anyone gets too close, the robot comes to a complete stop.
One of the primary goals of the ARIZ project is to establish a flexible and adaptive production assistant for safe human–machine interaction. This doesn’t have to be a conventional articulated robot, as used already in some production facilities. The adaptive and flexible robot is intended to be used at various production workstations. Its job is to take pressure off the employees by assisting them and taking over monotonous, ergonomically repetitive tasks. The safety of the employees has top priority. Working together with representatives of the trade associations, these safety aspects are being examined.
Another objective of the project is to identify particular needs for training personnel who will work at these production workstations, and then create an appropriate learning system. This learning system will prepare personnel optimally for their future tasks.
RWTH Aachen University is researching the effects of human–robot collaboration in terms of occupational science – for example in terms of acceptance.
Until now robots have only usually taken on a programmed operating sequence. The goal of the project is to develop a demonstrator for multi-variant production which can carry out various different tasks. In the interest of flexible production, this robot will not be permanently installed but will be capable of mobile, flexible deployment.
The robot assistant will be networked with the master IT system so that it’s able to access information itself, thus making configuration easier for the operators. And thus where gripping tasks are involved, for instance, the employees only have to enter the dimensions of the object being gripped and the robot is ready for action.
The project team works with simulations in order to accelerate inspection process for machines located in the factory without a safety fence. This means that hazardous situations played be run through virtually, and that the robot can commissioned virtually as well. The demonstrator will be used at Festo in the Scharnhausen Technology Plant.
In addition to Festo Automation, Festo Didactic is also involved in the ARIZ project. Festo Didactic is developing the learning system within the context of the project for human–machine interaction in future production.
From the scientific community
The ARIZ project is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under funding code 01FG14003A as part of the “Innovations for future production, services and work”.